As a new decade of music history begins, the music industry of South Korea is kicking off 2020 as one of the biggest in the world, with the country and its artists eager to show off what it has to offer as a global player.
While Korean music has spent the past decade working its way to becoming part of the mainstream-music conversation—and now represents the sixth-largest music industry in the world behind France, Germany, the U.K., Japan, and the United States—the chatter is mainly around pretty, pop-focused boy bands and girl groups such as BTS, BLACKPINK, NCT and TWICE who dominate YouTube and social media. Despite its heavy focus on K-pop, Korea has found a handful of artists in its burgeoning subgenres able to create both the excitement and fandom comparable to its super-pop stars.
Cue DAY6. In their four years together, the five-member rock outfit have managed to rise to the top of the charts around the world and have done so in a way that puts artistry first and captures the same enthusiasm that follows some of the world’s biggest boy and rock bands.
To put it simply, and by using their own words, DAY6 are, in fact, having the “Time Of Our Life” amid the “Sweet Chaos” that comes as the Korean band have more or less been given the reins when it comes to what they put out under their name. Yet, despite the promising results as they edge toward their five-year anniversary in 2020, the question of how to remain on their trajectory while simultaneously being true to themselves comes up often.
“Our goal has always been just one thing: It was [to] do music that we liked, that we’re satisfied with, and we hope that other people will be satisfied with it,” guitarist Jae Park shares. “It’s largely always just been us pursuing our interests and curiosity with music. So, even if we do become this crazy, world-famous [band], like, everybody knows DAY6, I think our goals will still stay the same.”
The topic of authenticity in music is one that’s always heavily debated in the pop scene and has been a critical point of many pop acts from Korea who are frequently tagged as “manufactured” for mass consumption until the next fresher, younger act come to replace them.
“That is something that we, as a group, have actually been discussing lately within ourselves: ‘How do we remain authentic?’” Jae reveals. “How do we not segue toward the music that we know is going to do better on the charts, but that we don’t like?”
Putting the question of authenticity up to DAY6 gives a spectrum of answers. Sungjin says self-acceptance, and Dowoon uses rational thinking as their personal keys to be authentic. Meanwhile, Wonpil says his role as a performer in the band is his most genuine expression: “The moment when we perform and sing our songs is when I am the most sincere and honest to myself.”
“We feel that we remained honest so far, so we’re just trying to maintain that honesty and keep pursuing music for what it is,” Jae concludes.
Young K agrees with his bandmates but offers the question, “What is good music? We don’t know. Whatever we wanted to do at that moment? And we’re probably going to do that with the next album and the one after and so on. We don’t even know which kind of songs are going to do well on the charts,” he says, before adding with a laugh, “and if we knew, we would have done better! So, we’re just going to do whatever we want.”
This feature originally appeared in AP #378 with cover stars DAY6, which is available here or below.